Trust and politics

Trust is a hard nut to crack to be sure. How much of it is really in our power? Is it a learned skill or something we can touch? Both probably. But if you've ever been at either end of an interaction where trust was burnt, it can feel like it will never return or maybe that mistrust is a necessary fact of life. How many times have you been burnt and sworn off ever trusting again? Probably too many to count, from elementary school, into early relationships, careers, family and the list goes on and on. Sociologist Brene Brown shares the all-too common example from her daughter here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6442YcvEUH8, but change the scenario to the professional world and I'm sure you have a similar example from your own life.



Trusting others is critical in adult life, it's sort of how the world works. Now I'm not talking about blind trust, but I'm talking about that every day sort of trust that people are doing the best they can. Trusting that cars will stay in their own lane, that the Dr. prescribing you medicine knows the potential downsides, trusting that you have the skills necessary to handle whatever might come your way, from picking the right doctor to swerving without rolling your car if cars drift, we tap into our own trust every single day.


Now take that professional example of trust misused from your own life. Mull it over in your mind, remember the details, the people involved. And ask yourself this, do you trust yourself? Do the other people trust themselves? In most scenarios it hardly even matters what the situation was, because the people who trust that they are capable of being successful (not in the narcissistic way, but the normal way), are simply capable of trusting others. The ones who don't, well don't. Trusting people can see the values and strengths existing in the people around them. They aren't blind to faults either. They know how to utilize both strengths and weaknesses together in a positive way forward. They know that trust given is trust rewarded, that ultimately trust is repeated action, proven over and over again, traded amongst us like marbles.


I work in politics, trust is everything. We trust our leaders to do the right thing. We trust that when topics seem difficult that they know more than we might. We trust that they listen to us and translate our fears, concerns and ideas into action to improve the future. We trust voters to know what they are doing as they vote, we trust campaigns to give the information necessary to make these decisions. We trust volunteers to show up and push candidates and issues across the Election Day finish line. This trust is an industry in and of itself. The shear number of people employed from coordinating volunteers to raising money to managing strategy and talking to media is huge. They work hard every day to build trust, capitalize on trust and hopefully translate that trust to get the votes they need on Election Day.


If you think any of this trust is done blindly, you clearly haven't been on the receiving end of the hundreds of phone calls reminding you about Election Day coming up, or emails asking for five more dollars. Regardless of party, issue or candidate, what is this industry selling? They are selling and buying trust from voters and they do that through shared values and vision for the future (and a lot of polling, consultants, advertisements, etc.) If you don't believe me, ask yourself this, if they are selling themselves and not trust, why do so many campaign advertisements showcase candidates who are just like you? Why do the successful negative ads show people or issues as not like you? They are slinging trust!


So why is politics such an untrustworthy profession? Why do voters reelect their politicians but distrust politics? I often joke about how this profession seems to be the only one where people both inside and outside of it declare that people have too much experience! They've been there too long! They've run too many campaigns! Think about it, we don't go into major surgery and ask for the newest surgeon on staff, we don't choose a dentist by asking what they've done in the automobile industry. But in politics it's different. Voters ask for candidates who know nothing about governing, they want campaigns run by staff who haven't done it before. Why is this, well, its done in an absence of trust. Politics (in the capital form of the word) seems untrustworthy, it's a race to the bottom with trust bought and sold like a commodity. We don't trust them and now they don't trust us (the voters).


What can be done?

Trust is action and comes in a million and one forms. But try to think of trust as Brene's daughter's jar of marbles. Trade trust as you can and where appropriate. Give it as freely and smartly as you can through as many actions (some big, some small, some boring, some colorful) as you can in your own world. Trust people around you and trust yourself, your jar is endless. And don't expect marbles back, as we know not every exchange in life is even or equal. As someone burns your trust, that doesn't mean it's your turn to burn them back or the next person even. If someone proves untrustworthy they may or may not always be untrustworthy, just as you are not perfect. Find someone (a politician even) you can trust. Trust yourself, find something you don't trust about yourself and test it. Is it actually true that you can't be trusted?


When you find yourself not trusting others, take that moment to decide if you are allowing your trust to be bought, sold or traded like a commodity or if you been sharing it freely. I am willing to bet that when you don't trust someone it's because you have stopped giving your marbles to anyone freely yourself and so you see others looking at your marbles like they might steal them. But since we agreed that trust is action taken and not actually marbles, no one can steal your trust except you. So stop doing that.

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